Last week we embarked on Ruth Soukup’s 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero Challenge, and I thought it was going to be about money. All of a sudden, I got to the end of the week, and was asked to reflect on the week. The main takeaway? I’m realizing that for me, this challenge is as much about parenting as it is about spending money. I’m realizing how much I spoil my kid, and it’s not a good feeling.
A little background: I have one 5 year old girl, known as Little Bit. Only child of older parents, only grandchild to 3 grandparents, Little Bit was probably going to be spoiled no matter what I did. Even when I realized that she was spoiled, did I blame myself? Of course not, but I spoil my kid. Until this challenge got me to stop spending money mindlessly, I didn’t realize how much I spoil my kid.
Eating Well and Spending Zero, but Not Following the Plan
Days 3-6 were all about eating well, and I’m not sure I really felt I was participating fully. I didn’t spend, but I also didn’t really participate in the activities for the day. I struggled with menu planning, and meal swaps didn’t appeal to my introverted soul.
Day 5 was eating out at home, or cooking the meals that tempt you to go out and eat. We don’t eat out all that often, maybe once a month, so wanting to scratch a restaurant food itch hasn’t been an issue yet. I took a look at some of the copycat recipes, nodded my head, and cooked the pork chops, spiced apples and cheese grits I had planned to cook anyway.
Day 6 was about prepping food for freezer meals. I really like the idea, and maybe I’ll be able to implement it after the challenge. We’re going to need a few more weeks of not buying anything to have spare room in our freezer. Even after organizing and throwing stuff out, we have an abundance of food and little space.
So was week 1 a success? I don’t know.
Certainly, I have no complaints about the food I ate this week. I had a terrific sausage and potato soup, made mostly with leftovers. I cooked our pork chop dinner. Jon fixed our one frozen pizzas last night, so I’m clear to try my own pizza dough this weekend. We even made a small dent in our vast supply of oatmeal.
I see trouble ahead next week, though, as our supply of snack food dwindles. Little Bit has already been complaining about her after-school snack, and I can only see that getting worse as we run out of pretzels, Teddy Grahams, and tortilla chips. I have everything I need to make peanut butter or oatmeal cookies, but I spent an hour last night on Yummly looking for salty snack recipes. Most of what I found would not be using what we have in stock. I earmarked carrot and beet chips anyway, and I’ll see if we can give them a try.
Little Bit may end up eating a lot of popcorn by the end of the month.
(You notice the problem on my mind, right?)
Day 7: One Week in and Time to Reflect
Finally, Day 7 gave me the first task I felt ready to tackle since Day 2: Reflect on the Past Week.
We’ve made it through the first week, and at first I felt pretty good. Other than a plastic snake at Dollar Tree the first day (see that?) and a $45 trip to the grocery store, we haven’t spent money on anything but bills and a tank of gas. Contrast this to what I might have spent had we not been on #31DaysLWSZ:
- Instead of $45 at the grocery store, our usual $125.
- $10 giving in to my Pumpkin Spice Latte craving (I would have bought one for my husband too.)
- $15 for admission to the local kid’s museum or $19.50 admission to a movie matinee to get the three of us out of the house on a rainy day.
- $5-$10 on bargain e-books on my Kindle.
Being on a Zero Spending plan probably saved us at least $100 this week. Not bad.
I also have a much better idea of what we have in stock, thanks to the inventory list, and I am going to stretch my creativity for future meals. I was surprised to realize that I’ve been eating healthier, as I’ve left most of the junk food inventory alone so it might last further into the month.
Best of all, I’m taking advantage of this period of reduced spending to reset my budgeting habits. I know recording all of your spending is best, but I had gotten pretty lax about recording every detail, especially impulse cash purchases. I figure the best time to start recording every spending decision again is while most of my spending is planned and minimized. So far, my spreadsheet’s looking good.
No spending really hasn’t been that hard. Yet. I can see it getting harder as our supplies dwindle. Today, for instance, my daughter had Chex with dried cranberries for breakfast. There’s one more serving of dried cranberries left. Personally, I can switch to raisins, but I’m not sure my picky eater will be satisfied. She’s also got a book sale coming up at school, and I think I will probably let her pick up a book or two. Does she need books? She has a bunch, so probably not. Her reading is coming along nicely, though, and I’d like to reward her progress by letting her choose a little of her own reading material and support her school.
Then there’s the State Fair. This month marks the 10th anniversary of meeting Jon. Our first date was a trip to the NC State Fair. Although we spent 10 hours at the fair that day, we haven’t been in a few years. Little Bit knows this, and this year, she is begging to go for the first time.
I’m not sure there is a bigger money sink hole than a trip to the fair. Okay, it’s not Vegas or Atlantic City. Still, between admission, fair food, games and rides, I can see us easily spending that $100 we saved this week.
Right now, I’m trying to convince Little Bit that next year would be better for the fair because most of the rides would require her to be 4 feet tall, and she isn’t yet. She’s asked me to measure her every day. While I don’t think she’s going to magically grow 4 inches in the next two weeks, I do think I’ll be hearing a lot more about the fair as her Kindergarten classmates tell her about their exploits.
The “A-Ha” Moment
Note the trend here? I don’t think I’ll cheat on the No Spending Plan for myself, and I don’t think I’ll cheat on it for my husband, no matter how much we crave Pumpkin Spice Lattes. No, I’ll cheat for my kid. I’ll go out of my way to spend not for her needs, but for her wants. It was the issue at the grocery store, it’s the issue on looking ahead to the rest of the month.
I’m afraid that I spoil my kid. It’s an issue I need to get a handle on.
She needs this month as much as I do. She needs to hear no more often.
She needs to learn to make do with what she has.
She needs to learn to do without some of her wants while she’s 5, before she has credit, and before she can run up debt. She needs to learn she can’t always have what “everyone else has” or do what “everyone else does” while peer pressure is still at Kindergarten levels.
It’s time to for me to stop spoiling my kid, and that’s not going to be easy on either of us.
Next up: my personal nemesis, housecleaning.
Do you put your child’s wants ahead of your own needs? What tips do you have for making sure your child has what they need, but limiting the wants?
Girl Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net